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Developer cries foul over harassment suits


By Benjamin B. Pulta
06/11/2010 [ tribune.net.ph ]

A real estate developer is sounding the alarm over the growing trend of delinquent buyers who resort to harassment suits to opt out of their purchase contracts.
“The entire real estate industry is in danger from these unscrupulous individuals,” Nuvoland Philippines Inc. (NPI) president Rally Martinez said as he urged government officials to disallow suits which shop for a more convenient forum against a developer.
Martinez pointed out in a number of key cases, the Supreme Court (SC) has held that it is the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) which has jurisdiction over complaints arising from contracts between a developer and the lot buyer or those aimed at compelling the developer to comply with its contractual and statutory obligations.
“There must be an end to litigation somewhere. We cannot allow persons to make a mockery of our justice system by indiscriminately pursuing their cases where they please once they lose before the HLURB,” Martinez said.
“These baseless harassment suits unduly put a strain on the financial resources of all developers and put to danger the contractual obligation of the developer to the legitimate buyers,” he added.
Martinez made the statement even as he revealed that many real estate developers are now “hurting” from the operations of unscrupulous individuals using alleged “legal mercenaries” and the mass media to harass legitimate developers.
“With the industry hit by the currency crisis, we hope the incoming Aquino administration can also look into this problem which affects real estate developers in their bid to provide every Filipino his dream house,” Martinez said.
Citing cases that reached the SC, the Nuvoland executive noted that the high court has consistently affirmed that the HLURB has the unique expertise to determine the problems facing developers and buyers.
In Arranza vs BF Homes (June 19, 2000), the SC pointed out that the boom in the real estate business all over the country resulted in more litigation between subdivision owners/developers and lot buyers with the issue of the jurisdiction of the National Housing Authority (NHA) or the HLURB over such controversies as against that of regular courts.
In another case, Antipolo Realty Corp. vs NHA, one of the issues raised by the homeowners, was the failure of the developer to develop the subdivision in accordance with its undertakings. Such undertakings, the SC held, was within the jurisdiction of the NHA.
In Alcasid vs Court of Appeals, the SC repeated the HLURB, not the RTC, has jurisdiction over the complaint of lot buyers for specific performance of alleged contractual and statutory obligations.
In that case the complaint is to enforce their rights as purchasers of subdivision lots as regards rights of way, water, open spaces, road and perimeter wall repairs, and security. Indisputably then, the SC said HLURB has jurisdiction over the complaint.
In that case the SC also said the fact that even if the developer is under receivership, the same does not divest the HLURB of its jurisdiction.
In Osea vs Ambrosio, the SC held that complaints for breach of contract or specific performance with damages filed by a subdivision lot or condominium unit buyer against the owner or developer fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the HLURB.
“Under the doctrine of primary administrative jurisdiction, courts cannot or will not determine a controversy where the issues for resolution demand the exercise of sound administrative discretion requiring the special knowledge, experience and services of the administrative tribunal to determine technical and intricate matters of fact,” the court said.
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